Diagnosed with Cancer at 60
It was September 4, 2013. It had been a long weekend because I was waiting to hear about the results of my prostate biopsy. The biopsy had been ordered by my Urologist as a result of my PSA number going up about 2 points from a 7.2 to a 9.0 between January 2013 and July 2013.
When the call came in that morning, the result was prostate cancer. I immediately called my wife and told her the results. I also scheduled a follow up appointment with my Urologist in order to discuss how to proceed.
Once I hung up from speaking with my wife, instead of thinking negatively, freaking out, and becoming morose, or just being numb, I began gathering information. I first spoke with a man who is in the same offices where I work and we discussed the diagnosis. He is my age and had read several articles or materials which indicated that something called Active Surveillance might be an option worth looking into before agreeing to surgery. While I had no idea what Active Surveillance was, I started reading anything and everything I could get my hands on to determine what it meant to have prostate cancer.
One thought which kept running through my mind was that I did not feel bad, had no aches or pains and would never have known I had prostate cancer but for the biopsy. What I actually knew about cancer was limited to past experience with my father who died from stomach cancer in 1969. He had suffered, had been in terrible pain and generally wasted away in front of my eyes. I was 15 and 16 when he was diagnosed. My father fought the disease for 9 months until he finally died. It was such a bad memory and so difficult to understand I had left those memories as far in the past as possible. The memories now surfaced and compelled me to look into this cancer diagnosis and determine what could be done to fight back.
In addition to reading all the literature I could find, speaking with friends and acquaintances, trying to understand the biopsy results and asking questions, I developed an attitude on curiosity. I was curious what caused this disease and why it was such an apparently common disease. The more I read and searched the more I realized that according to statistics, 92% of all men would likely have prostate cancer if they lived to the age of 80. I also learned that only 3% of the people who get prostate cancer die from the disease.
The prospect that began to disturb me was not the possible death from the disease but an awareness of the side effects which seemed to follow any surgical or radiation treatment. The side effects most common to surgery or radiation therapy were incontinence or impotence. The thought of wearing diapers the rest of my life was unsettling. However, the thought of never having regular sex with my wife of 32 years was truly one of the worst things I could imagine.
Motivated by the side effects relating to the choices in treatment options and seeking the least intrusive and most benign way to treat the cancer became more important to me than the actual disease inside me. If I could determine a way to minimize the risks of all the side effects but particularly the impotence and incontinence I would willing to make some choice in treatment options. However, surgery and radiation all seemed to be ways to increase the odds of one or both of the side effects I wanted to avoid.